Imagine you arrive at your automobile dealership at 9 a.m. on the dot and find an email inquiry from a customer who was prowling your website last night and wanted to schedule a test drive. Your enthusiasm may be short lived. The customer may already be behind the wheel at a competing dealership across town.
Such is commerce in an digital age where businesses and customers never sleep. Some 23% of leads come in after hours, and 50% of customers do business with the first company that contacts them, according to a survey by ReachLocal.
Customers are reaching out at all hours through email, phone, and web forms. These prospects want immediate attention, but rarely receive it. Another survey of 2,241 American companies found that those that responded to customer inquiries took 42 hours on average. Some 23% of companies never responded at all — the exact same percentage as the number of inquiries that come in after closing time.
Being Fast Closes Deals
Salespeople who follow up within an hour are more than 30 times more likely to speak to the decision-maker than those who wait a full day to respond. In the case of car dealerships, customers are three times more likely to come in for a visit when their online inquiries receive a response within 10 minutes; however, only 36% of dealers responded to requests submitted after hours.
“This potentially represents lost business as multiple manufacturers have stated that up to 40% of all consumer leads are submitted when dealerships are closed,” noted Digital Air Strike, the social media firm that conducted the study.
Respond With Technology
In a 24-7 world, the key is to automate your response after-hours. A variety of communications platforms provide options for how you can respond in a timely manner to a customer inquiry:
- An automated email can tell the customer the name of the salesperson who will contact them in the morning.
- Open-access calendars can allow customers to schedule their own appointments.
- Text alerts can immediately tell a manager or business owner about an inquiry, allowing them to decide if it’s important enough to respond to, or forward to an employee.
- Chat bots can simulate live support via artificial intelligence based on your team’s customer service chat logs.
- Digital answering services can handle inquiries, using a script provided by the small business to book the appointment.
Janette Derbyshire, a property manager at Old Pasadena Collection Apartments who uses automated technology for after-hour leads, says such technology has had a significant impact on her business. “Marketing automation tools are allowing us to respond quickly to our leasing leads and has helped us to organize all the lead sources,” she says. “And that difference in response time continues to make leasing apartments even more successful.”
In an era where the Internet is the new storefront, an online inquiry should be treated with the same respect and swiftness as a customer who walks through the front door. Don’t keep them waiting.